Bosnia-Herzegovina after the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords
Politically speaking, the Dayton Peace Accords signed on December 14th, 1995, stopped the civil war in B-H and brought temporary peace between the Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks following the destruction of the ex-Yugoslavia. The Bosnian War, which started on March 1st, 1992 with the deadly attack on Serbian civilians in the downtown of Sarajevo by the Muslim fundamentalists, was a product of the nationalistic policies of three ethnic political parties which emerged in B-H from the first post-WWII democratic elections in 1990. In November 1995, after more than three years war in B-H with some 100.000 killed people, the political representatives of three ethnic groups involved in the civil war met with the US’ President Bill Clinton in Dayton (Ohio) for the sake to reach and sign peace agreement what was done on November 21st, 1995 and ratified in Paris on December 14th, 1995.
Theoretically, the Dayton Peace Accords provided the foundations for the functioning of B-H as an undivided political entity that was recognized by the international community. However, in practice, the post-Dayton B-H was composed by two separate political entities: the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (made up of the Roman Catholic Croats and the Muslim Bosniaks and occupying 51% of the B-H territory) and the Republic of Srpska (composed by the Orthodox Serbs and occupying 49% of the B-H territory). Nevertheless, within the Federation, in reality, exists unofficially recognized Croat Herzeg-Bosnia as an autonomous region. While the Federation is cantonized on an ethnic basis (10 cantons), the Republic of Srpska is a politically unitarian entity. A joint three-man Presidency with Serb, Croat, and Bosniak representatives with the veto right followed by a joint people’s Assembly is set up. The Republic of Srpska has its own Assembly, the Government, and the President as well as. The city of Sarajevo became divided into two parts, democratic elections on all levels were required as the return of the refugees, the war criminals had to be excluded from political life, and an international peacekeeping force was mandated. The process of the post-war reconstruction of B-H under the umbrella of both the OUN and NATO started. Finally, following the peace agreement, the OUN established the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (the ICTY) for the reason to examine charges of ethnic cleansing and other war crimes.
Nonetheless, the Dayton Peace Accords as well had and its international dimension. Following this agreement, B-H was put under international monitoring or better to say Western colonial supervision first under the umbrella of the OUN but later of NATO when the international UNPROFOR peacekeepers already in B-H since 1992 have been replaced by IFOR in 1995 under the US’ command and strong American influence. In the next year, the IFOR was replaced by NATO-led SFOR and in December 2004 the SFOR was replaced by the EU’s EUFOR with the prime task to maintain peace, security, and stability. The Western colonial presence in B-H, however, has and its nonmilitary feature as an appointed High Representative has to exercise in practice the powers of the joint Presidency over the two areas despite the possible reluctance either by Croats or the Serbs.
The presence of foreign military forces in B-H had several direct effects on the political arena in the country among which the most three significant have been:
- Putting an end to the war even though it was unable to facilitate the return of many refugees to their pre-war homes for different reasons.
- Undermining seriously the political power and Islamic features of the leading Muslim party – the SDA. The party after Dayton was not any more seriously taken into consideration by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The SDA was no longer able to impose control either over the jihad military volunteers who still left in (Central) Bosnia (especially in the Zenica district) or the Islamic NGOs.
- The other Muslim political parties, movements, and organizations increased their power and influence at the expense of the Islamists.
It is true that after the war, many Muslim volunteers remained in B-H where their regional center became the central Bosnian industrial center of Zenica, where they became employed by the Army of B-H or for some private companies or organizations. They received the B-H identity documents and many of them even citizenship and passport based on their military service during the war. The Islamic political platform in B-H started to split apart and its disintegration forced the leadership of the SDA to rely on the prestige and cult of President Alija Izetbegović who since 1997 had clear difficulties with the health. It became obvious that only he alone was able to maintain the cohesion of the SDA and to use his great personal popularity among the Muslim Bosniaks to restore the party’s position. But he died soon, in 2000.
9/11 and radical Islamism in Bosnia-Herzegovina
The al-Qaeda-organized terrorist act on New York and Washington on September 11th, 2001 (9/11) changed the Western (particularly the US’s) attitude toward the process of Islamization in B-H. As the first Western response to the case occurred soon on September 26th, 2001 when four people became interrogated by the SFOR for their connections with the Saudi High Commission for Relief on the ground on suspicion of implication in support for terrorism. Even though all four persons were found not guilty and, therefore, have been released, the very fact that they were under investigation showed that the Islamic NGOs have been understood by the Western intelligence services as potential objects of suspicion. Subsequently, in May 2002, five new suspects have been arrested and delivered to the US for the investigation procedure. But the real effects of such and similar actions were not so impressive as the Islamic NGOs continued their Islamic politics to re-Islamize or better to say to proper-Islamize the Muslims in B-H, using the leverage of their resources for the final purpose to impose right Islamic conduct and proper Islamic behavior on the Muslim society. It is true especially for the Saudi Wahhabis who became the most radical Islamic group in both B-H and Kosovo-Metochia. They are systematically dismantling secular artistic and cultural heritage but as well as and the Ottoman one and replacing it with the construction of mosques and other Islamic objects according to their “proper” vision of the Muslim religion and the Islamic culture.
The Islam in Bosnia-Herzegovina as well as in both the Balkans and the ex-Ottoman Empire, in general, is adhered to the Hanafi “madhhab” (school of jurisprudence), which was the most liberal among all the four schools in the Sunni Islam. However, the Islamic NGOs in B-H (like in Kosovo-Metochia) are all under the influence of the Saudi Wahhabi Islamic doctrine, itself aligned with the Hanbali “madhhab” that is prevalent in Saudi Arabia and at the same time the most conservative of all the interpretative traditions of Islam.
After the 9/11, the following four questions became crucial concerning the political future and Islam in Bosnia-Herzegovina:
- The question implicit in the imposition of order by the Western military forces including the problems of how long it was meant to continue and how effective it would be in repairing the war damages?
- The question of SDA’s utilization of Islamic politics?
- The question of whether Islam can continue to serve as a gathering point for all B-H Muslims?
- The question if Islam in the future may become a source of political conflict between secular Bosniaks and Islamists?
A role of Alija Izetbegović (1925−2003)
A focal nationalistic leader of the B-H Muslims in the 1990s was Alija Izetbegović who established on May 26th, 1990 the SDA (the Party of Democratic Action/Stranka demokratske akcije) that was officially self-represented as the national-political representative of all Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslim community and the crucial protector of their national and confessional interests. The party was established as a typical Muslim one which the party’s program and manifesto have been based on the traditional Islamic values and measures like the observance of the Muslim festivals or the reconstruction of the Islamic praying houses. After the first post-WWII democratic elections, A. Izetbegović became a President of the B-H Presidency due to the fact that his main opponent Fikret Abdić (a businessman from West Bosnian region of Cazin), who won most votes did not want to take a post of the President. Nevertheless, A. Izetbegović was regarded as a hero in many Muslim countries and, for example, in 1993, he received an Islamic award by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for his efforts on behalf of the jihad.
Alija Izetbegović with Croat-Muslim coalition declared in 1991 a sovereignty of Bosnia-Herzegovina and in March 1992 its formal independence regardless of the fact that it was strongly opposed by 1/3 of the B-H citizens (the Serbs). Immediately when he took political power, he adopted a policy of establishing as closer as relations with both strongest Islamic countries (with Iran and Saudi Arabia at the first) and Islamic organizations worldwide. Just after the 1990 December elections in B-H as a matter of the preparation for the proclamation of the independence, he visited in February 1991 Libya and in April 1991 Iran and succeeded to establish very close relations between the SDA and the Islamic Republic of Iran which would finally lead to significant Iranian aid and the presence of many of the Iranian jihad fighters during the coming civil war in 1992−1995.
However, thanks to his cultivation of a favorable anti-communist and among all anti-Serbian image in West Europe and the USA his Government succeeded to establish beneficiary relations with the West especially with the administration of the US’ President Bill Clinton who totally closed his eyes on all A. Izetbegović’s Islamic activities to transform B-H into Islamic state according to the pattern of his sponsors from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The civil war in B-H undoubtedly allowed him to impose almost uncontested dictatorship among the Muslims except in the Cazin region in West Bosnia led by Fikret Abdić who rebelled against his authority, Government, and the policy of the Islamization of the country.
Due to A. Izetbegović, B-H became gradually more and more Islamized, and the Shari’a law became progressively introduced into the courts. Ethnically and, therefore, confessionally mixed marriages have been not welcomed and A. Izetbegović himself was expressing preferences for the suppression of both Christmas and New Year celebrations. After the very end of the civil war in B-H, followed by the departure of the Serbs and to the certain extent of the Croats from Sarajevo, the city, which has been for centuries of a multicultural nature, became almost exclusively Muslim one, where evidence of the Muslim culture, history, and Islamic influences have been more visible and preserved. It is a matter of very fact that A. Izetbegović welcomed any kind of extreme Islamic organizations to come and exist in B-H and sought assistance from the most important sponsors of the Islamic politics in order to realize one of his focal geopolitical aims to unite the Muslims of B-H with those of the Sandžak region of Novi Pazar into the Ottoman time province of the Pashalik of Bosnia (1463−1878).
However, after the elections in 1997, disillusionment became common within the large sector of the B-H public after the forced Islamization of the country by the SDA but which became possible mainly due to the assistance provided by the Saudi NGOs, among other Islamic similar groups. In general, it was welcomed by the West especially after 9/11 which was not at all happy to tolerate Iranian influence in B-H or to accept the existence of Islamic radical organizations. Nevertheless, A. Izetbegović’s SDA emerged after 9/11 weakened from the parallel competition it underwent from both secular and Islamic groups especially after October 19th, 2003 when the party’s founder died.
Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
 See more in [Derek Chollet, The Road to the Dayton Accords: A Study of American Statecraft, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005].
 See more in [Elizabeth M. Cousens, Charles K. Cater, Toward Peace in Bosnia: Implementing the Dayton Accords, Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001].
 The al-Qaeda (The Base) was led by Osama Bin Laden who was responsible for 9/11 and other terrorist attacks on the US’s targets in several countries. He was born in a wealthy Saudi family in 1957 in Riyadh and studied in Jedda where became influenced by a Palestinian radical, Dr. Abdullah Azzam. During the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan (1979−1989), Osama backed the Mujahedin resistance to the Soviet army getting financial and military support by the Reagan administration for his anti-Soviet activities. The al-Qaeda organization was formed by Osama in 1989 which turned to be anti-American during the 1990−1991 (First) Gulf War. The deployment of the Western military in Saudi Arabia struck him as the very violation he was called upon to resist. During the Bosnian civil war his representatives had talks with the members of the SDA and according to some claims even with Alija Izetbegović. Osama bin-Laden was personally in Tirana (Albania) in the 1990s. In May 1996, he returned to Afghanistan where he became one of the crucial financiers of the Taliban takeover of Kabul in September of the same year. The first big terrorist action done by al-Qaeda was on August 7th, 1998 on the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya: vehicles with explosives destroyed both Embassies with killing hundreds of people. The American response was to bomb the training camps of al-Qaeda in East Afghanistan but Osama survived the attacks. Nevertheless, his focal attack was on September 11th, 2001 when some 2000 Americans died. The direct outcome of 9/11 was the US-led military campaign Operation Enduring Freedom for the purpose to destroy both the Taliban regime and the al-Qaeda organization in Afghanistan. Concerning the first task, the operation was successful as Kabul fell to anti-Taliban forces on November 13th, 2001 but failed with regard to the second one. Nevertheless, al-Qaeda and its networks associated groups are blamed for the terrorism in Bali, Madrid, London, and in several other cities. According to the official US’s claims, Osama Bin Laden was killed in 2011 by special anti-terroristic forces of the US Army. However, some of his followers soon joined the ISIS in the Middle East to fight for the universal Islamic caliphate – an idea which attracted many Balkan Islamists included those in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo-Metochia, regardless of the very fact that the tactic used by the ISIS is largely criticized by the al-Qaeda, who view the ISIS as illegitimate. See more in [Daniel Byman, Al Qaeda, The Islamic State, and the Global Jihadist Movement: What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford−New York: Oxford University Press, 2015].
 About the terrorism as a global phenomenon, see in [Pierre H. Richard, Terrorisme: Quand tout peut devenir une cible, Montréal, Québec: Charron Éditeur inc., 2016].
 Islamic politics is a political-philosophical viewpoint that there is no separation between politics, state, society, and religion in Islamic communities. The proponents of such an attitude launched the idea that Islam is religion and state together. Therefore, Shari’a law is the only law acceptable. As a matter of fact, the colonial penetration of the Western values of the Islamic countries in the Middle East from the 19th century onward resulted in a conflict between the Western secularism and the Islamic religious conceptions of politics for the very reason that both the legal system and education gradually became Westernized and, therefore, secularized. The Western colonialism of the Islamic peoples and lands led inevitably to an emerging new public sphere which was in opposition to the traditional Islamic practices and values. Nevertheless, modern Islamists set about to reconstruct old Islamic political and social order calling on the first place for the implementation of Shari’a law and full respect of the five pillars of Islam. With the Islamic (Shia) revolution in Iran (Persia) in 1978−1979, the feature of Islamic politics became radicalized. All Islamists, in general, agree upon the idea that the prime function of the state is to create and maintain all necessary conditions for the full implementation of Shari’a law. It is quite clear that in this case, the state has to be founded on certain principles from the Qur’an and Sunna of the Prophet (justice, equality, consultation). There is a general consensus among the Islamists that the Shari’a law, as the ideal of social justice, is based on God’s Word in the Qur’an and the Sunna. They also claim that sovereignty belongs to God, and the ruler must be obeyed to keep the order, peace, stability, and security. See more in [Khaled Hrob (ed.), Political Islam: Context versus Ideology, London: SOAS Middle East Institute, 2012].
 The SDA was established, in fact, by the Islamic nationalistic organization the Young Muslims.
 See more about this issue in [Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1990s: A Short Documentary Movie by the SKY News at http://global-politics.eu/bosnia-herzegovina-isis-in-the-1990s-a-short-documentary-movie/].
 See more in [Bosnia, Intelligence, and the Clinton Presidency: The Role of Intelligence and Political Leadership in Ending the Bosnian War, Little Rock, Arkansas: William J. Clinton Presidential Library, 2013].
 Read more about Bosnia-Herzegovina as the cradle of modern jihadism at [http://global-politics.eu/bosnia-cradle-modern-jihadism/]. About the same topic, see the BBC News documentary movie from 2015 [https://youtu.be/M6QIopgwuIU].
 See more in [Laura Silber, Allan Little, Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, New York: TV Books, 1996].